Running a business (and make no mistake, a law practice is a business) is a marathon, rather than a sprint. That is especially true when it comes to marketing. I see many lawyers who make the mistake of giving up too easily because they don't see immediate results from their efforts.
Marketing is about building relationships. In the same way that you can't expect to have immediate results when you enter the dating pool, you can't expect to have immediate results with marketing. It takes time to get known within the community where your target market 'hangs out' and to build trust with potential clients and referral sources.
Your marketing efforts are an investment in the future of your firm and your career, and the more consistently you invest, the better your return will be. That means that you have to make marketing a habit. It needs to be part of your daily or weekly routine.
Conventional wisdom says that in order to make something a habit, you have to do it consistently for 21 days in a row, but that falling "off the wagon" for only a few days can break the routine. Habits are only developed through repetition.
Don't make the mistake of trying to integrate too many new habits at once. One new habit at a time is enough. Once you've mastered that one new habit and it becomes part of your routine (or even better, after you've developed a system so that habit is automatic, or close to it), you can begin to integrate another habit.
One of the reasons why it is difficult to develop good, consistent marketing habits is that lawyers are confronted by so many distractions. Not only do client work and daily emergencies get in the way, but it's easy to be overtaken by "bright, shiny object syndrome," letting the next big thing distract you from consistently taking action. Rather than continuing to move forward with the marketing tools and activities that the firm is already undertaking, strengthening relationships with existing clients, staying in touch with former clients, or maximizing existing networks, lawyers feel that they 'should' be doing something new. New tools and technologies can be powerful forces to support lawyers in their marketing and business development efforts, but even these new tools need to become habits in order to be effective.
In order to develop good marketing habits, you need to be specific about the action steps that you intend to take to create the marketing habit. While it's a good idea to set intentions and goals and develop a vision for where you want to take the practice, intentions by themselves will not create results. It is the small daily or weekly actions that you take that create results over time.
Don't be judgmental. Nobody is perfect, and developing new habits or trying new things is often difficult. Give yourself permission to make mistakes. When you make a mistake, rather than berating yourself, ask yourself what you can do differently or how you can improve the next time.
Celebrate your successes – even the small ones. A lot of small steps together create big progress. Focus on the positive and on what you are learning and accomplishing as you move forward, rather than focusing on all of the things you haven't accomplished (yet).
Develop systems or protocols to support you in developing your new marketing habit, and change them if circumstances change. I recently realized that I have not been on Twitter much lately, although I enjoy it and it was a good complement to my other marketing and business development activities. It helped me to learn new things, exposed me to articles and information that were helpful to my business and my clients, introduced me to new people and helped strengthen some of my professional relationships. I had gotten out of the habit of interacting on Twitter because I developed the habit of checking Twitter when I was at my desk, on my computer, but lately I've been doing more traveling and have been heavily involved in other tasks that mean I spend much less time at my desk. My change in circumstances meant that my original 'system' for using Twitter no longer makes sense. I need to develop a new Twitter habit that involves using Twitter through my Blackberry. Be mindful of how a change in your routine affect your business development habits.
Need some ideas for marketing habits that you can begin to establish right now? Here are five – but remember – one at a time!
- Call a client or business alliance every day with no particular agenda – call just to catch up and find out what they are doing.
- Develop a daily social media habit – whether it's Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or another platform of your choice, connect with others, contribute, answer questions
- Send a daily handwritten note – whether it's a thank you note to someone you just met, good wishes to a colleague who moved their office, or a note to a client thanking them for their business, a handwritten note will make an impression.
- Write something every day: a blog post, an outline for a lecture, an article on new developments in your field, an update to your bio or profile, a flow chart to help clients understand how their matter progresses through litigation, etc.
- Create Google alerts for clients, colleagues, industry keywords, and check them daily to stay updated and to give you fodder for any of the above ideas.
Start creating a new marketing habit now, and see how things develop over the next month. Once you start getting your marketing muscles in shape, you'll be ready for the marathon.